Academy supt. reflects on career, retirement

  • Published
  • By Amber Baillie
  • Academy Spirit staff writer
Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, the Academy's 18th superintendent, will retire next week after serving his country for 37 years as an Air Force officer.

Gould, a 1976 Academy graduate and 1972 Prep School graduate, tackled many rewarding Air Force opportunities during his nearly four decades of service, including pilot instructor, presidential aide, Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center commander, and his time as an Academy cadet, where he lived under the Cadet Honor Code and developed a foundation of honor and integrity that carried him throughout his career.

"The concept of integrity first and knowing that we have to have a trust in each other if we're going to get our job done is important," Gould said.

Gould's time at the Prep School sharpened important skills and gave him a foot in the door at the Academy.

"Attending the Prep School gave me an edge -- it helped me with my study habits and it helped ingrain some of the math and science and English skills I needed to polish. I left the Prep School feeling very prepared to start as a fourth classman at the Academy. As I look back on my cadet days, I learned a lot in academics, athletic competitions, attention to detail and the value of precision through my military training."

Gould was appointed as the Academy's superintendent in 2009. One of his main goals as the Academy's top officer was to awaken the sense of fanatical institutional pride here. This couldn't have been achieved without support from the community, he said.

"I'm proud of the way we've seen the community of Colorado Springs, El Paso County and the state of Colorado embrace the Academy," Gould said. "Last summer was a visible example of the community reaching out to us when they offered us whatever we needed during the Waldo Canyon Fire. District 20 offered us their Discovery Canyon Campus to conduct our training; the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs gave us a classroom building to conduct our summer academics; and people in town housed those evacuated out of Pine and Douglas Valley. It's nice to know this community recognizes they have a national treasure right in their backyard, and their support makes us feel really good."

Gould said community outreach has been another essential component of pride.

"Our cadets, permanent party and others here have given tens of thousands of hours of community support whether it was during the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest Fires or volunteering for Habitat for Humanity or our other community support efforts. Our people have let the community know we care about our neighbors."

Gould said striving toward a culture of respect has been important in promoting Academy pride.

"Every one of us has to respect those who are different than we are," Gould said. "If they're willing to wear the uniform of our country, we all owe them the proper levels of respect so they can contribute to the mission. Discussion on respect needs to occur here for such a culture to exist -- it has to be a part of the conversation in the classroom, on the athletic fields, within the military training arena and in our Airmanship programs,"

Gould said. "We have to keep it on forefront of our conscience."

Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Ludwig, the Academy's command chief, said Lt. Gen. Gould and his wife Paula are more than passionate about developing and caring for Airmen and their families.

"They both exemplify the fanatical institutional pride that is the main focus of the last few years," Ludwig said. "It has been an honor to serve at the Academy with them. I know pride in the Academy and the Air Force will always be in their hearts."

Gould's pride extends into the Academy's future, and there are many initiatives set in motion that will ensure the Academy remains one of the nation's most prestigious higher learning institutions.

"The Academy will still continue to have needs to improve its infrastructure and that means taking care of the existing facilities as well as developing new and improved facilities.

These programs need to continue and will flourish even more as we work to complete our Center for Character and Leadership Development."

The CCLD will be much more than just another iconic Academy structure, Gould said.

"As this building goes up, we get really excited; not so much just to see the physical structure sprout out of the ground, but when we think about the fact that we'll finally have a home where we can centralize all Cadet Honor Program and other leadership activities."

Along with his passion for the Academy, Gould is equally enamored of flying, he said. The general, a command pilot with more than 3,300 hours of flying time in various aircraft under his belt, began his Air Force career as a T-38 instructor pilot at Williams Air Force Base, Ariz.

"I had more fun than anybody should be allowed to have," Gould said. "The joy that came out of that was watching students come in and struggle and then overcome their struggles, succeed and earn their pilot wings."

Gould also flew cargo aircraft and tankers. He said being part of the resupply and deployment efforts to transport people and supplies during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom ranks in his memory as a career highlight.

"Being involved in operational logistics to feed the fight so our Air Force can do the things we do for our country was extremely gratifying," Gould said. "I've had the opportunity to fly many of those missions and to command others who did the same."

It goes without saying that Gould will miss serving at the Academy, he said.

"What makes the Academy continue to produce great officers year in and year out is the dedicated faculty, staff, permanent party and those who make the mission happen," Gould said. "Paula and I will also miss interacting with cadets here who are so sharp, inquisitive, imaginative and willing to learn. It's pretty neat being around youngsters who have that patriotic dedication to be willing to go through a tough program like this and go out and serve their nation, and our Air Force, as well as they do," Gould said.

The Goulds recently purchased a home just east of the Academy where they have a perfect view of the Academy, including Jacks Valley and Falcon Stadium, the general said.

"We're going to sit back and relax for a couple of months and we'll weigh some of the opportunities that come up and find a way to contribute in some other walk of life," Gould said. "Part of that contribution will be continuing to serve our Air Force and the Academy in any way we can."

Paula is a retired Air Force Reserve colonel and the Goulds' two sons are Air Force officers.

"We look at what our kids are doing and it makes us awfully proud that they're out there serving and doing some of the same things that we've enjoyed so much," Gould said. "It really makes you feel good that the family is all-in in this effort."

All Academy members are invited to the Academy Superintendent Change of Command Ceremony 9:30 a.m. Aug. 12 on the Terrazzo where Lt. Gen. (Sel) Michelle Johnson will assume command of the Academy from Gould.

"I never dreamed that this is where it would all end," Gould said. "I look back at the opportunity to go to the Prep School and attend the Academy and graduate, and it's all a distant memory. To think I was able to serve for all these years and then come back and finish my career where it started is something I look on as a real blessing."